Yasmin, a second-year student (and current Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ community President), along with her pal Mafalda, are the brains behind ‘Beanbag Convos,’ an event being held in the SU Venue today.
They’ve described it as an opportunity for students to come together to openly discuss their personal experiences of mental health and share techniques they’ve used to cope. There will also be a bunch of beanbags for everyone to chill out on… hence the name.
‘Ultimately, we want to show each and every one of our peers who struggle with their mental health that Goldsmiths’ students care,’ says Yasmin. ‘We want them to sit down and share their history.
Our goal is to create this unity and trust because the way a lot of places, such as the university, deal with mental health is quite isolated - you’re in a room by yourself with an advisor. And a lot of people only ask for help when they’re at crisis point but they should feel like they can do that before.’
She continues: ‘There’s not enough support peer-to-peer. There are layers to the community that I want to make stronger. Some students come into university late or they get a bit behind… there has to be a better way to catch those who are struggling.’
There are also personal reasons why Yasmin and Mafalda have felt there’s a need for this kind of event. ‘I definitely look at my own mental health experiences,’ says Yasmin. ‘When I was 15, I was diagnosed with depression. I had counselling for six months and that set the framework for me to realise I could become in control of my thoughts again. I’m such a different person now so I want other students to know that they might be in a very dark place but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be like that forever. You can be calm and accepting and learn techniques to cope, although of course it’s quite complex.’
While their event today is only small – a two-hour casual meet-up for students to pop along to, that doesn’t matter… in fact maybe that’s the whole point. And if it’s successful, who knows what’s next.
‘We could have a big event but that’s not meaningful,’ says Yasmin. ‘Our event won’t make money, but hopefully it will generate a sense of community and that’s what I think there should be more of a focus on.
‘I like the idea of mental health as a public good, and hopefully the “beanbag conversation” fits into that idea because there needs to be this shared sense of responsibility. We all play a part - there’s no way that one person or one body can deal with all of this. I’m inspired by the idea of tackling mental health in a different way where it’s not top-down from a hospital, it’s actually us, the students. If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this event, it’s the idea that you’re not going through this alone, and that in itself is so powerful.’